Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy) | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact's oddest fact-checks of 2012

If you want fact-checks on the weighty, wonky issues of the day, you turn to PolitiFact.

But the Truth-O-Meter also has a sense of humor, so we occasionally do light-hearted or downright odd fact-checks.

Here is a look at some of the more unusual fact-checks we did in 2012.

• • •

Was Bane, the villain in the most recent Batman movie, a sneaky attempt to smear Mitt Romney?

Uh, no. It turns out that the villainous Bane first appeared in Batman comic books in 1993, long before Romney entered presidential politics. Even the character's creator — who identifies as a conservative — called a suggested link "ridiculous." We rated this statement Pants on Fire!

Are there more shark attacks in Florida than cases of voter fraud?

Oh, Florida. In March, the state's controversial new election law was the subject of national barbs, including on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told the Report that Florida officials claimed they needed to pass the law to prevent voter fraud, but those cases were actually pretty rare — more rare than shark attacks. We looked at fraud cases and shark attacks 2008-2011, and with a couple of caveats, he was right: Mostly True.

Did the Washington, D.C., City Council ban rat extermination?

In January, news stories mentioned extra rats around Occupy D.C. camps a few blocks from the White House. Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general in neighboring Virginia, told a conservative website that D.C. law "doesn't allow them to kill the dang rats. They have to capture them, and capture them in families." Our colleagues at PolitiFact Virginia scurried for the evidence, and found a 2010 law prohibiting lethal trapping specifically exempted the common type of rat that lives in our nation's capital. (That would be the Norway rat, you comedians!) Pants on Fire.

Is the proper collective noun for a group of baboons … a "congress"?

Our fact-checking colleagues in Rhode Island have learned from experience to be skeptical of anything they see in the contagion of emails they receive. But they wondered, since they're always skeptical of their own skepticism, whether this little tidbit from a chain email might be true. Sadly for comedy and the English language, the correct term is a "troop." Pants on Fire.

Can the word "vagina" get a lawmaker banned from the Michigan House?

Yes, this did happen, and the uproar included this post passed around Facebook: "Vagina. Because apparently, saying that word in the Michigan State House of Representatives can get you a two-day ban from speaking on the floor." Republicans who silenced Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown, who used the word in debate about abortion rights, say the reason wasn't the word itself, but that she violated decorum and invoked an offensive parallel to rape. She was banned from speaking, though for one day, not two. We rated the Facebook claim Mostly True.

Did some Oregon schools spend $500,000 to de­­clare the peanut butter and jelly sandwich racist?

The Oregon PB&J kerfuffle started with a Portland Tribune story about diversity training that quoted a K-8 principal, Verenice Gutierrez. Using the peanut butter sandwich as an example in a classroom lesson, she said, might not resonate with Somali or Hispanic students. "Another way would be to say: 'Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?' Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita." Shortly, this headline turned up on "Portland Schools spend $500K to deem PB&J sandwiches racist." Our colleagues at PolitiFact Oregon don't usually weigh in on lunch, but who could resist? They found the statement inaccurate and silly. Or, more concisely put: Pants on Fire.

Does the health care law require you to insert microchips in your body?

From the claims that just won't die department: We wrote this one in 2009 but continued to get many inquiries about it in 2012. The inquiries were sincere and serious, from people who got a chain email that an "implantable radio frequency transponder system" would be implanted under the health care law to "collect data in medical patients," including "claims data" and "electronic health records." A chip does exist that allows patients to mark themselves with a medical ID number. But it doesn't store records, isn't required by anyone, and has nothing to do with the health care law. So, for the record, no. A big Pants on Fire no!

PolitiFact's oddest fact-checks of 2012 12/26/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 8:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect


    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)


    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.